In 2019, youth leaders at Gente Organizada discovered that their school district was illegally spending funds reserved for foster youth, English learners, and low-income students (“high-need students”) on school police and security. Outraged, the students organized and ran a campaign to stop it. After months of advocacy, they ultimately convinced their district to stop spending those funds on law enforcement and to reinvest them instead in additional counselors.

Concerned about how common such illegal spending might be, Gente Organizada, Public Advocates, and the ACLU Foundations of California launched an investigation looking at how all 136 school districts in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties were spending their funds. The study uncovered a disturbing trend: more than 40% of the school districts were illegally spending funds meant for high-need students on law enforcement or other school hardening measures, costing more than a million high-need California students their right to tens of millions of dollars in positive supports and services.

Districts' Using Funding for High-Need Students on Law Enforcement and School Hardening Measures in 136 Districts

The groups documented their findings in a February 2020 report, Our Right to Resources: School Districts are Cheating High-Need Students by Funding Law Enforcement, which examines the true cost of such illegal spending, including the harmful impacts the presence of law enforcement in schools has on high-need students and students of color. The report also proposes alternative, evidence-based solutions that effectively support high-need students, such as school-based health and mental health resources (e.g., school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, and school nurses), restorative justice programs, and positive behavior interventions and supports.

For an overview of the findings and recommendations, download a 2-page summary of the report (available in Spanish).

Download the full report.

Download the Appendixes, which include a description of the methodology and related data.

Use this map to see if your school district is illegally spending money meant for high-need students:

Right to Resources map of school districts

You and your community can take action.